"A Paradise of Reason is far more than simply a book about a quirky eighteenth-century clergyman and his New England town. This impressive weave of social and intellectual history has deep insights about the complex relationships of Christianity, the Enlightenment, and the cultural politics of the early American republic." --Christopher Grasso, Associate Professor, Department of History, College of William and Mary
"The Reverend William Bentley of Salem was a towering figure in the early American republic, a voice of Jeffersonian liberalism in Federalist New England. He was also driven by a personal history of poverty, deprivation, and rejection. In this beautifully crafted synthesis of intellectual biography and community study, J. Rixey Ruffin restores this irascible loner to his rightful place in our understanding of the politics and theology of the American Enlightenment." --John L. Brooke, Ohio State University
"Scholars of the early American republic have mined the diary of the Reverend William Bentley for his keen observations, but no one before J. Rixey Ruffin has undertaken such a close and comprehensive study of the intellectual world revealed in Bentley's vast manuscript corpus. Readers interested in New England history, American liberal theology, and the political culture of the early republic will all learn much from the cogent analysis of this book." --Jonathan D. Sassi, author of A Republic of Righteousness: The Public Christianity of the Post-Revolutionary New England Clergy.
"This personal odyssey illustrates much about the tensions and aspirations of the era. Summing Up: Highly recommended." --CHOICE
"[An] erudite, beautifully written, and much-needed biography of Salem's prolific proponent of "Christian naturalism." ...This is a carefully researched and vividly presented history of a man whose unorthodox religious beliefs and republican politics both contrasted with and significantly influenced Salem's Arminian and Federalist majority. Ruffin shines in his re-creation of the social and religious world of Salem in the early Republic, and he has reintroduced us to a figure worth studying for the creative and possibly idiosyncratic ways he melded rationality and religion.--Church History
"J. Rixey Ruffin has gathered the celebrated diary, the neglected sermons, the East Church records, and exhaustive contextual research to produce the first critical biography of Bentley and the best cultural history of Salem's golden age in a generation...Ruffin has pondered Bentley's record with extraordinary care and produced a beautifully detailed account." --American Historical Review
J. Rixey Ruffin is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point